Fear The Beard?
The Metroplex does.
Thunder shooting guard James Harden is the latest in a growing line of fully follicled faces that have terrorized pro teams in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. First was Baron Davis against the Mavs in the 2007 NBA playoffs. Then came Brian Wilson against the Rangers in the 2010 World Series.
Thursday night, it was Harden torching the Mavs for 23 points and sparking a series-evening victory in the Western Conference Finals.
“James Harden scored 20 points,” ESPN anchor Stuart Scott said on-air after the game. “His beard had three.”
As this playoff series shifts to Oklahoma City at 8 p.m. Saturday, Harden is among the emerging stars.
His beard has long been a star. It first became a big deal at Arizona State during Harden's final college season when he grew it out during a winning streak. But in his two years in the NBA, The Beard has become a phenomenon. There are T-shirts. There are websites.
Harden has one fan page on Facebook.
His beard has six.
Granted, Harden is more popular than his beard with about 9,000 more people saying that they “like” him on Facebook, but still, the appeal of his beard is undeniable.
Davis even gave it a tug during All-Star Weekend.
Yep, the point guard who powered the eighth-seeded Warriors to an upset of the top-seeded Mavs in the 2007 playoffs walked right over to Harden earlier this season and grabbed The Beard.
“Not allowed to touch The Beard,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks deadpanned. “Especially an opponent.”
There was a time when Brooks wasn't so protective of The Beard.
“It took me a year to like it,” he admitted. “I didn't like it last year, but now ... I don't want him to shave it. It's who he is.
“It gives him strength.”
But hey, if Wilson's beard can hold Irish dancers — as the tongue-in-cheek ESPN commercial with the Giants relief pitcher indicates — maybe Harden's beard holds something, too.
“It's like Sampson and his hair,” Thunder veteran Royal Ivey said. “If he cuts it, he's going to lose his superpowers.”
Ivey knows a thing or two about facial hair. He's had a goatee for years.
“I'm almost 30, and I can't grow a full beard like that,” he said. “I'm envious of his beard.”
Harden insists he didn't set out to have one of the best beards in sports. His facial hair simply started growing so fast that he decided he had to do something to make it look nice.
Hence, The Beard was born.
“It's part of me,” he said. “I've thought about cutting it — my mom wants me to cut it sometimes — but it's me.”
Some might ask what lurks inside the thick bushiness of The Beard — “I don't have any of those dancers or anything in my beard,” Harden said. “It's just hair” — but the better question might be what hides behind the hair.
What would James Harden look like without The Beard?
“He'll probably look like a brand new baby,” Ivey said. “He'll probably be two-toned.”
Brooks said, “It's hard to imagine him not having it. I think it's great, I really do. I like it now.”
The folks in Dallas-Fort Worth?
Not so much.